Airbus new BizLab Tech Accelerator will nurture startups working on tomorrow’s aviation technology/Airbus

Butterfly Business Class Seat Transforming/Paperclip Design

Airbus’ new BizLab technology accelerator program has announced its selection for the first five start-ups which will participate in a six month mentoring program to grow ideas into businesses.

Among the five companies selected is James Lee’s seat design firm, Paperclip Design, Hong Kong which has developed a number of clever solutions to the sticky issues of cabin crowding.

We’ve written about Lee’s elbow-friendly PaperClip armrest, the passenger-friendly economy Meerkat seat, and the convertible business class Butterfly seat design. Lee’s seating innovations have won design awards, but remained in a hold-pattern waiting for backing by an industry manufacturer.

But Lee’s Butterfly has been selected for Airbus’ new BizLab technology accelerator, which could finally help put Lee’s seats on an aircraft.

Airbus BizLab launched a call for projects in May 2015 and received 150 applications from around the world. These were short-listed to 15 start-ups who were invited to pitch in front of a dedicated jury this July. From this short-list, five companies were selected to join the BizLab accelerator starting in September of this year.

The five lucky start-ups are:

  • 3rd Trust (Germany), which offers an innovative way to secure the streaming of printing data to remote 3D printing.
  • OBUU (Spain), developing a Ground System Equipment with a tool provisioning method that could reduce the costs of aircraft maintenance and improve fleet availability.
  • SimSoft 3D (France), which is developing an intelligent console for voice guided operations that allows an interactive dialogue between the operator and the machine at work.
  • UWinLoc (France), a low-cost high accuracy passive indoor/outdoor tracking system.
  • And PaperClip Design (Hong Kong), which will further develop the Butterfly flexible business class flat-bed suite that can be transformed into a premium economy class seat.

The startups will work with a large number of Airbus experts with diverse specializations (technical, legal, finance, marketing, etc.) and a dedicated mentor. They will have office space at Airbus, and access to the manufacturer’s prototyping and test facilities.

At the end of a six-month development period, these finalists will present their products to a panel of Airbus decision makers, subsidiaries, customers and partners, as well as venture capitalists, who will judge the projects on business merit and decide how they might move forward.

Bruno Gutierres, Head of BizLab, Airbus, tells us that partners include a broad set of companies including Coca-Cola, Google, and Microsoft.

“This company was built on innovation, but innovation is not all about technology, it’s about creating value,“ he says. “If the startups have achieved what they were supposed to, they will find investors. The market will be the final judge.”

Beyond the new BizLab at Toulouse, Airbus is also preparing BizLabs in Hamburg and Bangalore, and intends to grow the number of projects which can enter the accelerator program. The number of future projects Airbus will depend on the success of this initial group.

“As with any activities you need to learn,” says Gutierres. “Five is a reasonable number to learn together with the startup how to run our program.”